Iron Cross

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Several different versions of the Iron Cross awarded by Prussia.
Knight's Cross. The swastika makes it illegal to wear in Germany and possibly various other countries.

The Iron Cross (German: Eiserne Kreuz) was a military decoration, first awarded by Prussia during the Napoleonic Wars (instituted in 1813) and later during the Franco-German War, later awarded by the German Empire during the First World War, and finally awarded by National Socialist Germany during the Second World War.

It was a progressive award, with the lower classes generally having to be awarded before the higher. However, the Grand Cross classes were reserved for generals.

Originally there were three classes:

  • Second Class.
  • First Class.
  • Grand Cross.

During the Second World War, there were eight classes:

  • Second Class.
  • First Class.
  • Knight's Cross
  • Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves
  • Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves and Swords
  • Knight's Cross with Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds
  • Knight's Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds
  • Grand Cross

A special class, the Star of the Grand Cross, was awarded twice, to Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher after the Battle of Waterloo and to Paul von Hindenburg in 1918.

The basic design was constant, a cross pattée of cast iron edged with silver. The bottom arm had the dates 1813, 1870, 1914, or 1939. The Second War version also had a swastika, which replaced the previous symbols of the crown and royal cipher. The Knight's Cross was smaller than the Grand Cross, but larger than the ordinary Iron Cross. The different ribbons used to wear the cross also had differences.

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